ABSTRACT. This article describes a continuing programme of school-based applied research. The basis of this research, which originated in a project called ‘Thinking Together’, lies in the relationship between language and cognitive development postulated by sociocultural theory. The research has developed and tested methods for improving the quality of classroom interaction amongst teachers and students, looking for improved levels of collaboration, reasoning, and academic attainment as the desirable outcomes. A key strand of this research concerns the use of digital technology for supporting classroom dialogue and students’ emerging thinking over time. As we will explain, the outcomes of several research projects pursuing this line of enquiry have yielded positive results, which have direct implications for classroom pedagogy and practice.
ACADEMICA – Accessibility and Harmonization of Higher Education in Central Asia through Curriculum Modernization and Development – is a three-year project co-funded by the European Commission in the framework of ERASMUS Plus Program involving 15 partners coming from Europe (Bulgaria, Italy, Austria and Spain) and Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan).
The project’s main objective is to support Higher Education lecturers in Central Asia in the improvement and modernization of scientific curricula through the introduction of new methodologies based on the use of technology, media supports and distance learning tools.
This paper describes the rationale underlying the project and provides an outline of the implementation of the planned activities. Particular attention is given to the design of the ACADEMICA e-course that represents the core element of the initiative and that, once completed, is expected to become a good practice to be transferred even to other institutions that are not partners of the project’s consortium.
A college at the University of South Africa embarked on a formal mentoring programme to mentor newcomer academics in appropriate teaching skills relevant to a contextualised open distance learning environment. The mentors who took part in the in-house mentoring initiative were experienced academics who will be retiring from the system over the next decade. The aim of the research reported in this paper was to determine which open distance learning-related teaching skills are considered most important to be conveyed through in-house mentoring. Based on an interpretive paradigm a mixed-methods research approach with document study and individual e-interviewing was used. Main findings included that a student corps with diverse characteristics and needs still necessitates an emphasis on tuition via print media, but with an increased incorporation of technology to arrange for constructive learning through interactive communication so as to respond to viable imperatives for technology application. Major teaching skills pertained to the developing of study material in the proper register for reader understanding and to employ myUnisa (a web-based learning system) to facilitate learning. The research contributes to a refining of the discourse on constructive open distance learning teaching within an environment that is increasingly exposed to using digital technologies to adhere to global imperatives for knowledge-based relevancy.